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Beware the Creeper!

Iain's life as a psychotic crimefighter

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What Old Media thinks of Social Media or #pictheft 2011

So, I was walking back to UTS from the Broadway Shopping Centre yesterday at lunch time when I saw this:


There is a crowd of police cars and emergency vehicles outside my place of work.

Like any denizen of the web 2.0 world would do, I tweeted:


Because that's what Twitter's all about, isn't it? Human reportage and the bleeding obvious.

It appeared that the injured (and fortunately there was only injured people) had been taken to hospital, so I tweeted another photo to show the extent of the crash:


It looked pretty serious.

Went back to my desk, rang murasaki_1966 and told her about the accident.

A few minutes later she sends me this link from the SMH. You may notice my name under the photo.

However, originally, it looked like this:


Notice anything missing?

On the one hand, I was rather stunned and chuffed that a photo I took just 20 minutes ago had wound up on the Sydney Morning Herald site - on the other hand, as Ian Woolf pointed out: @jryderau you should ask them for payment for using your copyright for profit, and get a credit as well

So, after trying to find a way of contacting the SMH without going through a webform, I decided to e-mail the newsdesk:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to you about the unattributed reproduction of a photo I
took of an accident near the corner of Broadway and Abercrombie Sts in
the CBD at around 1:30 today.

I tweeted this photo to the yfrog photosharing service -

And found it used on this SMH online story here -

The only attribution being that it was "from Twitter".

Surely this is a breach of journalistic ethics to publish copyrighted
material without the permission and attribution of the copyright
holder? I do not consider myself difficult to contact as my real name
is in my Twitter profile with a link to a contact address for me so it
should have been trivial to contact me to ask for permission.

If Fairfax has made the internal decision that, despite Australian and
International copyright conventions, content posted to the Internet is
in the public domain, I would like a link to the (I assume) publicly
posted policy so I can make my fellow twitterers more aware of what
they post to Twitter and how it may be used.

It seems that Fairfax have been made aware of this issue before -
- so I can only assume that you will make the appropriate attribution
and suggest suitable compensation for the breach of my copyright.

Yours sincerely,

Iain Triffitt (@jryderau on Twitter)

And this was the response I received (note, as the SMH did not ask my consent to republish my material, I assume I should extend them the same courtesy):

Hello Iain,
You email to the newsdesk has been passed on to me. It was entirely my fault your name wasn’t appended to the caption and I will correct that now. I know Twitter’s terms and conditions don’t oblige us to attribute non-private images, but we do like to make a point of it wherever possible. I simply failed to follow through the link to your name on this occasion and then got overtaken by another story and it slipped my mind. Apologies and I’ll fix it now.
Richard Woolveridge
Smh news editor

And yes, as you can see, they did add the attribution (eventually) but on re-reading the letter, something caught my eye, so I responded:

Hi Richard,

On re-reading your letter I should correct a misapprehension of yours.
Twitter's terms and conditions don't apply to images as the images are
hosted elsewhere (in this particular case, yfrog.com.)

From yfrog.com's terms and conditions:

All files are copyright to their respective owners. ImageShack directs
full legal responsibility of files to their respective users. All
other content copyright ImageShack. ImageShack is not responsible for
the content any uploaded files, nor is it in affiliation with any
entities that may be represented in the uploaded files.

Just because the file was visible on Twitter doesn't mean that Twitter
host the image. Though, I understand, this is very murky territory.

BTW - The attribution is still missing from the page.


Of course, immediately after I posted it, the page was updated with the attribution.

This was the response from Richard:

Sure, but I think their usage terms are very similar unless an image is private.

And this is the response from something called the Reader's Desk:

Dear Iain,

Recently you contacted ReaderLink. The following outlines The Herald's response:

Thank you for your email. We value all feedback because it forces us to re-examine our decision-making, which will hopefully lead to us producing a better web site in the future. We understand that our online News Editor discussed the matter with you and amended the caption. You are aware that Twitter’s terms and conditions don’t oblige us to attribute non-private images, but we do like to make a point of it wherever possible. He simply failed to follow through the link to your name on this occasion and then got overtaken by another story and it slipped his mind.

Your interest in Herald Publications is appreciated and has provided us with valuable feedback.
Please quote ####### if you wish to contact ReaderLink again.

Ben & Peter

Again with the You are aware that Twitter’s terms and conditions don’t oblige us to attribute non-private images

No, I'm not. And I gather, neither is US District Court Judge William Pauley who in a similar case  well-

In the case for the defence, AFP solicitors cited the part of the Twitter TOS which allows Twitter non-exclusive, royalty-free license to submitted content as justification for using the photos without paying for right to do so, saying “this broad re-use is evidenced every day when Twitter/TwitPic posts are copied, reprinted, quoted, and republished by third parties.” However, US District Court Judge William Pauley disagreed, stating, “The provision that Twitter ‘encourage[s] and permit[s] broad re-use of Content’ does not clearly confer a right on other users to re-use copyrighted postings.”

(thanks to @sylmobile for the link)

What Fairfax miss is that the photo was never posted on Twitter - it was linked to on Twitter but it was actually posted on yfrog who, as I mentioned in my letter to the news editor, clearly indicate that copyright remains with the copyright holder.

Fairfax have been guilty of this thing before (and indolentdandy has contacted me and is looking for other people who have been plagiarised by Fairfax) and it seems quite clear that their policy is to continue to do so. As @indolentdandy pointed out - it's not only a breach of copyright, it's a breach of their own code of ethics:

Staff will seek to attribute information to its source. They will always declare the use of pseudonyms in their work. They will seek to avoid being compromised by a source and to use multiple sources wherever possible. Where a source seeks anonymity, the journalist shall first consider the source's motives and seek alternative attributable sources. Quotes not attributed to a named source will be used only with a section editor's approval. Where confidences are accepted the journalist will respect and protect them in all appropriate circumstances.

It is pretty obvious that Fairfax just looks at Twitter, Facebook and other social media as providers of free content for their commercial news services (I mean, look at the number of ads around the crash story alone. I counted at least eight.)They won't even offer trade in the attention economy by providing a link to the creator in the attribution because that may result in a reader leaving the site. I was meant to be grateful to them for correcting what should never have been an issue in the first place. I wonder how the journalists at SMH would have felt if attribution also slipped the editor's mind, because he was too busy doing his job. Too busy to adhere to a defined code of ethics, it seems.

This is why people distrust Old Media - it's become increasingly apparent that Old Media are quite prepared to steal other people's creations, whilst retaining the tightest possible grip on their own.

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You know, Mediawatch might be interested in this.

I might approach them, indolentdandy might be planning something as he's gathering other examples of Fairfax's plagiarism.

I humbly suggest that if you submit your story, and Indolentdandy submits his, then you both have a stronger case


Besides, if you don't I will. Always wanted to tip off Mediawatch. :)

ps Media Watch are useless. They never even acknowledge email submissions.

I did get a response from them. Mind you, it was an out-of-office reply.

Should I get it framed?

Send 'em a bill. Cite yfrog's copyright provisions.

It's the principle that's more important to me. I suspect it would cost more to extract the payment from Fairfax then the actual payment itself.

Yeah, not unreasonable - I was seeing at more as a "principle of the thing" thing, a demand for a token payment.

Part of the principle is to encourage Old Media to engage with Social Media in a more ethical way (I don't want to discourage Old Media from using Social Media content, I just want the attribution - a cross link, too, would have been nice.)

Besides, wouldn't we get an "Australia's Funniest Home Videos" situation if people knew they would have to get paid for getting their tweeted photos/videos into the paper?

Also you should contact the journalist's association/press association and find out what their guidelines are aboutthis sort of thing.

The Australian Press Council

You've got a correction, but the missing part is a public apology. Make a formal complaint to the Australian Press Council. I have before and forced News Ltd to issue a correction AND to publish an apology - see http://indolentdandy.net/fitzroyalty/2009/04/28/i-fought-news-ltd-and-i-won/

Fairfax social media plagiarism

It's Fairfax editorial policy not to provide hotlinks as they think it makes people leave their sites, but of course we do anyway!

More on this saga - http://indolentdandy.net/fitzroyalty/2011/01/06/social-media-plagiarism-is-standard-practice-at-fairfax/

How did I miss this saga? I'm not impressed with the SMH.

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